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The Challenger Story
It was a cold January morning in 1986. Jane was ecstatic to turn on the television and watch history be made. I always knew that she was always a space nut, but never this bad. I look pass that, and still see the Jane that I like: smart, beautiful, and always in a good mood no matter what. She was still in her tie-dye pajamas when she walked up to my door pounding on it to let her in. She had her brown hair pulled back into a ponytail, and glasses. She was about five foot three, and barely weighed over a hundred pounds. Even if she did wear glasses, she was still really attractive to me. I didn’t really know what she felt about me, until that day.
When she walked up to my door she had an expression on her face like it was her sweet-sixteen birthday.
“Today’s the day,” she said almost out of breath when she came in. I was getting a little concerned if she was having another asthma attack. She must have read me when she said holding her chest, “I’m fine. Don’t worry.” I shook my head, trying to get back to what she said.
“What do you mean?” I asked dumbly. I was feeling stupid saying that because it must have been something she told me like a thousand times, but it still doesn’t go through my thick skull. The look she gave me didn’t help matters.
“Today’s the launch,” she said slowly annunciating her words. Still didn’t mean anything to me. “The Challenger launch…The Teacher in Space Program, the event that I have been telling you for the past month!” Then it finally hit me when she mentioned the Teacher in Space Program. Jane goes on and on about her dreams of becoming a teacher and this really boosted her ideas of being a teacher when President Nixon created the idea of the Teacher in Space Program. She gets into her ideas of being a teacher and she looked really cute when she daydreams about it to me.
“Of course,” I said bumping my palm to my forehead. “I’m such an idiot.” Jane rolled her eyes at me.
“No, you’re a dork,” she said matter-of-factly, but also had a hint of flirtation behind it. She gives me that look that she always does when she makes me smile. I can’t help but smile. She turns around and flips on the television. A random commercial of toothpaste comes up.
“So what are you doing later today?” She asks, still facing the tv. I was silent for a moment thinking.
“I don’t think that I have anything scheduled for later,” I finally replied. “Other than having to walk Mrs. Westridge’s dogs, I should be all good for later today.”
“Okay, good!” Jane spoke in an excited tone standing up walking up to me. “I was kind of hoping that we could go to the arcade, or go roller skating later at the beach park. Maybe watch the sun set.”
“Wait..” I stopped her. “Are you asking me on a date?” Before she could answer, the television bursted with music that could only belong to news show. Jane’s eyes sparkled even more when it went off. She went back down to the tv and turned up the volume.
“Now, from CBS News we bring you the total story and coverage of the Teacher in Space Program and the Challenger’s 10th launch into space.” The news reporter started talking his reporter business on the subject, and Jane stared into the screen attentively. She then broke her attention from the tv, and looked at me.
“Let’s pop some popcorn; the launch isn’t for another half-an-hour.” She grabbed me by the wrist and walked with me to the kitchen.
“Yes,” Jane said slightly shy. “I am.” She reached up into the cupboard searching for popcorn. She didn’t keep eye contact with me, and kept searching for the popcorn.
“It’s at the on the far right cabinet in the front,” I said. She went to the cabinet and grabbed the popcorn, and sat it down on the table. This time she made eye contact with me, and she was obviously nervous about what I would say in reply.
“Yes, you are what?” I asked, pretending like I didn’t get what she was mean.
“Yes, I’m asking you out on a date.” Her eyes went back down to the table, not making contact with mine again.
“Yes,” I said confidently. I grabbed the popcorn , opened it, and put it into the microwave. Jane looked at me almost like she was surprised.
“Really?” She was obviously excited, which was a shock to me. She was really good at hiding her feelings for me, and I had never noticed that she did like me. Even though I did really like her, I never saw the signs that she liked me when I was looking for them.
“I said ‘yes’ didn’t I?” I said. She looked at me and smiled. The microwave screeched, signaling that the popcorn was done, and we headed back into the living room. The tv was going on about the crew members, and the history of the shuttle. Jane and I sat on the couch and started to eat the popcorn. “So what one do want to do?”
“Hmm?” Jane had her mouth full of popcorn, having her body facing me sitting cross legged on the couch.
“Do you want to go to the arcade, or go roller skating later at the beach park, or watch the sun set?” Jane leaned forward, putting her elbows on her knees to think. Then it happened again. The damned tv broke her attention away from me and onto the screen.
“Ten…nine..eight…” A monotone voice broke out of the tv. Jane turned her body towards the tv.
She wrapped her hand in mine saying, “It’s happening!”
“Four…three..two…” The screen showed sparks going on under the shuttle, and the ground shaking. “We have ignition.” The shuttle was launched into the air. Jane’s eyes sparkled as if she was looking at a newborn baby. The next thing I know they go dark. I look back at the tv to see a “y” shape smoke fill the screen. I looked back at Jane, hoping what I saw was just a figment of my imagination. I didn’t get what I wanted. Her face was pale as a ghost. She almost looked like a ghost. It was real. It was really happening.
The Challenger exploded in midflight. It happened on national television, in front of the whole nation and the whole world. I still couldn’t believe what just happened. I was brought back to reality to have Jane leaning her head into my chest, sobbing. I was already a shock to me, but I couldn’t imagine what she going through. Her hopes and dreams just exploded on television. I put my hand on the back of her head, and held her close. Suddenly I felt tears stream down my cheeks. I felt horrible for the brave crew members on that shuttle who lost their lives, and also for Jane. She clenched my shirt in her hands, still sobbing.
“Come on,” I said grabbing Jane’s hand. “Let’s go to the arcade.”